Inter- and Transdisciplinary Learning

Inter- and transdisciplinary teaching is aimed at empowering students to investigate and resolve complex global issues in science and the professional world where these cannot be handled based on one discipline alone. The many different subject combinations available at Leuphana as well as the complementary studies elements at the College, Graduate School and Professional School provide a space for collaborating across subject boundaries as well as the opportunity to train and develop the necessary competences. 

Courses apply the approach of linking different knowledge areas and methods in order to move away from mere parallel developments towards integrated new knowledge, thereby subjecting teaching and organisational conditions to different demands and challenges to create courses focused on basic (subject-based) theories and (subject-based) methods. At times, these are run by a team of several lecturers from different disciplines, or they might deal with contents and questions which students develop in projects, perhaps across several semesters.

Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary teaching and learning

Interdisciplinary teaching can cross subject boundaries on three levels: when dealing with a specific topic, by combining different disciplinary cultures (methods, terminology, paradigms, etc.), and by joining together staff or students. Each dimension aims to identify the differences between the subject perspectives involved, become aware of the specific characteristics of one’s own perception, and finally to achieve synergies by combining these perspectives.

Transdisciplinary teaching has the objective to communicate and interact between methods, theories, concepts and findings across subject or even university boundaries. It intends to transcend cognitive or even ideological separations as much as possible. In this way, Leuphana supports collaboration between the representatives of different university subjects and with actors from outside the university, e.g. from politics, culture, NGOs or business.

At Leuphana, learning means more than combining subject knowledge in an individual way - it also and in particular involves complementary study elements (Leuphana study concept) at the College, Graduate School and Professional School, creating the opportunity to collaborate across subject boundaries and develop the necessary competences further.

Inter- and transdisciplinary teaching applies a basic epistemological dimension by demonstrating the contingencies between university methods, subject cultures and findings - but it also required concrete material effects: Courses, which combine approaches, areas of science, methods and actors beyond subject boundaries in order to achieve more than the sum of their parts, often also need to go beyond existing processes, general conditions or conventions of university learning and teaching.

  • Inter- or transdisciplinary learning implies that a different understanding of subjects has become established, allowing for critical reflection and, where necessary, transcending beyond boundaries; it also includes an interest in findings relating to cross-subject issues, an openness towards a diversity of perspectives, and the willingness to identify and respect the subject cultures of other actors.
  • Inter- or transdisciplinary teaching assumes that the object under investigation can be examined successfully by different scientific disciplines; it also requires a multidisciplinary approach, didactics and method which take into account the general conditions - students, lecturers and possibly external actors from many different subjects and areas, a greater time investment, and the diversity of the cultures involved.
  • Institutional or structural aspects of inter- and transdisciplinarity in studies and teaching might relate to e.g. legal conditions (RPO, curriculum, contracts etc.), organisational parameters (room sizes, time required for each teaching unit and during semesters, infrastructure for units outside the campus, technology etc.) as well as ‘soft’ or cultural characteristics (interaction and communication methods, discourses, expectations).

Survey on interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary teaching at Leuphana

In the winter semester 2018/19, a survey was conducted to record the educational offerings at Leuphana on interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary teaching as well as the didactic methods used in this context. Here you can find the summary of the results.